Federal Court Finds Tax Shelter Promoter Liable for Over $8 Million in Penalties for Timeshare Donation Scheme

Billings, Montana - On Dec. 16, following a bench trial in May 2021, a federal court in the District of Montana ruled that James Tarpey, a Montana-based attorney, is liable for approximately $8,465,000 in penalties for promoting a tax shelter involving improper deductions for donating timeshares.

In 2015, the government initially filed an action to enjoin Tarpey and others from engaging in a scheme of purportedly donating timeshare interests for large tax deductions. The court permanently barred Tarpey from promoting the timeshare donation scheme. The court also ruled that Tarpey made false statements resulting in tax avoidance. Tarpey agreed to an injunction in 2016, which remains in full effect.

According to court documents, Tarpey formed Project Philanthropy Inc. dba Donate for Cause (DFC) as a non-profit organization in 2006, and that “DFC allowed timeshare owners who faced burdensome timeshare fees and expenses to donate their unwanted timeshares.” The court found that Tarpey and others prepared appraisals for timeshares that were donated to DFC, and that Tarpey promised potential customers generous tax savings from donations of their unwanted timeshares. In a March 2019 order, the court concluded that the Treasury Regulations disqualified Tarpey and his appraisers from conducting timeshare appraisals for DFC because they “lacked sufficient independence[.]” The court further concluded that these “false appraisals resulted in tax avoidance” and that “Tarpey knew, or had reason to know, that” “he made false statements.” The court’s 2019 ruling left open the amount of Tarpey’s penalty, however.

In its final order, issued Dec. 16, the court ruled on the amount of the penalty. The court found that the gross income amount that Tarpey derived from the entire scheme was at least $19,623,437, and this would lead to a penalty of over $9.8 million.  However, the court agreed with the United States to limit the penalty against Tarpey to $8,465,000 (plus interest), the amount that the government had sought in its counterclaim.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General David A. Hubbert of the Justice Department’s Tax Division made the announcement.

Trial Attorneys Richard G. Rose, Harris J. Phillips and Gretchen E. Nygaard of the Tax Division litigated this case. IRS agents and the attorneys at the IRS Office of Chief Counsel provided support.